Lucy Rivers and Hannah McPake are Gagglebabble - a multi award-winning Cardiff-based theatre company who aim to create entertaining genre breaking high-quality gig-theatre for adults. Their new Festival of Voice show, Double Vision, will run from 6-17 June at Wales Millennium Centre.

Can you tell us what you do? 

Lucy: We do gig-theatre – essentially combining theatre and music. Usually it is completely brand new plays with quite dark content but also dark humour.

Hannah: Innovative and entertaining storytelling with a strong live music element. We want people to come and have a good night out.

Why have you chosen to work in Cardiff?

Hannah: Because we live here!

Lucy: It is a good city, we think there is an advantage as far as it being the capital and it feels like maybe other people don’t know, from outside of Wales, how much stuff is actually going on here.

Hannah: There is a strong and supportive arts community here and it feels possible to make work in a way that perhaps living in somewhere like London it wouldn’t.

What inspires you about being here?

Hannah: Quite often we use local stories. We work with co-producers here who have been very supportive.

Lucy: We’ve worked with National Theatre Wales, Theatr Iolo, Chapter, The Other Room, Wales Millennium Centre.

Hannah: And working with the live music scene here – it is huge and we’ve worked with a lot of music talent.

Lucy: We always used musicians who are based here but who haven’t necessarily done live theatre before. We don’t think there is anyone doing live gig theatre like we are. Certainly when we started it felt like a completely new genre. We just wanted to take back control of how music was used in theatre – it hadn’t been pushed in a way that attracted me. All of our shows have music that you could buy an album and it could stand up on its own. It did feel groundbreaking when we did it.

What challenges have you found in working in Cardiff?

Lucy: Probably what everyone faces. It feels like we’ve got to a stage now where it feels hard to move on and be more ambitious, maybe because the funding pot in the arts in Wales is a certain size compared to England. It feels like there isn’t anything for our theatre company scale now. We’re still project funded but we find it hard to get anything more sustainable.

I think Cardiff also has a dearth of affordable rehearsal space so that is a challenge.

Hannah: And storage space! It is the practical things really. Cardiff is a great place to be inspired, to make work but there are quite particular challenges so as a small company, run by the two of us out of our kitchens primarily, it becomes problematic.

Lucy: I think a challenge facing Wales and the arts is building audiences.

How successful do you think Cardiff has been at making itself a creative capital, particularly in your area of work?

Hannah: I think Rachel has made great strides in terms of that at The Sherman, she’s really put them back on the map which will help put the whole city on the map. National Theatre Wales are doing some great things.

Lucy: Festival of Voice is an amazing festival to have in the city. Cardiff is becoming more well-known culturally because of those things. I don’t think it is known outside of Wales though.

Hannah: We talk to theatre makers who say there seems to be a lot going on in Cardiff, in the way they used to talk about Bristol, but that is on the smaller, independent scene.

In your opinion, which three things need to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city?

Lucy: I think it is all going in the right direction. The fact film and TV production is massive now is getting Cardiff a name outside of Wales. I think we need to reach out internationally. Shouting about it and genuinely supporting grass roots. The City of Music and saving Womanby Street was a great grassroots campaign but it needs to be supported – money has to be put in to sustain those venues and bands.

Hannah: It is about investing in the work that is here at a grassroots level and then getting the work out there, as well as trying to get the work to come here. Collaboration is the only way we’re going to survive cuts, to pull together and pool our resources. There isn’t so much of a skill sharing culture here, few workshops and little professional development in theatre compared to other places. It is about providing spaces and opportunities to continue to challenge us, help us grow and make work.

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve?

Lucy: You’re doing so much exciting, great work so keep doing what you’re doing but maybe focusing in on that performing arts side of things. Keep cheerleading and shouting out about what is going on!

Hannah: And facilitating conversations as well which is really exciting.

Describe your favourite creative place to work in Cardiff.

Lucy: If we’re going to meet, we’ll do it in Chapter as it is our local arts centre. Generally though, we’re working at our homes.

Hannah: There is was a beautiful rehearsal space in Mynachdy which Theatr Iolo had which was an old school building, it was like a little haven. That is about to be demolished and that is another rehearsal space which hasn’t been replaced. It is where we first started.  

Lucy: We’d love to have more options for space!

Can you pick one creative person in Cardiff who we should go and find out more about?

Lucy: Kirsten McTernan is a photographer that we’ve always used. She does a lot of show photography and lots of shoots with bands.

Hannah: And then Nick Finch (Chameleonic) is our designer who has designed our current poster but he also does filming projection art.

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon? What new ideas are you working on?

Hannah: So we’re making a brand new show called Double Vision for Festival of voice at WMC. It is based on an unmade Hitchcock script. It’ll be an immersive, sensory thriller with a kicking soundtrack.

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